Hello, everyone. It's my beta Pen Against Sword's birthday today, and I thought I'd write this commemorative little piece for her and all of you to enjoy. I don't own FFVII and all that noise.
It was a typical day at the office for Yuffie Kisaragi, which meant that she was sitting in the aforementioned office, slowly wasting away from boredom and pretending to do paperwork. Things had been much easier when she hadn't needed to file a notification in triplicate whenever she had to beat somebody up. Working for the WRO had its ups, and it also had some of the deepest, darkest downs in the world.
Yuffie's office wasn't as spacious or lavishly decorated as she might like it to be. It was a small room, the edges bursting with filing cabinets and the center taken up by her desk, which itself was unimpressive. She sat in a chair behind her desk, and there was a single chair in front of it that anyone entering the office might have to climb over in order to sit down in, so close was it to the door.
The door opened just a crack and Yuffie instantly woke from her light nap and began to pretend to do paperwork again. Whatever she didn't finish today – and that would be most of it – she could foist off on a subordinate. If they complained, she would threaten them with bodily harm and a revoking of their dental plan unless they just buckled down and did it all. They couldn't say that they were unable to duplicate her signature, because Yuffie couldn't duplicate it either. It looked startlingly different every time.
Vincent Valentine poked his head around the door, an action that looked oddly comical when he did it. After the WRO had put down Deepground and he had similarly put down the issues of his past, he had moved into an apartment close to the WRO Tower and become a bit more social. Yuffie still figured that she would never entirely understand him and what he had been through, but he was still a good friend whose company she enjoyed.
"It's only me, Yuffie," he said after a moment. "You can stop pretending now."
"Was it that easy to tell?" she asked, frowning.
"Yes. You were signing a requisitions form that was upside-down."
Yuffie looked down at her desk and saw that he was telling her the truth. "Oh. Great." She turned the traitorous piece of paper right-side-up and asked, "What can I do for you, Vinnie?"
He looked a bit embarrassed for a moment, which was strange, and then he said, "My birthday is a week from today, and I'm having a small, informal gathering to commemorate it. I was wondering if you would be interested in attending."
Yuffie didn't try to hide her shock. "You have a birthday?"
"Wow. I always kinda thought that one day you just oozed out of the night sky fully grown and decided to join the Turks."
She smiled apologetically. "Sorry, that was kinda mean of me. Of course I'd like to come to your birthday party, Vinnie. You having it at your place?"
"Cool! I'll see you there."
Vincent nodded and then closed her office door, and Yuffie settled back into her chair and shut her eyes again. This was the first time since she'd known him, as far as she could remember, that Vincent was celebrating his birthday. Things really had changed for him.
Then her eyes snapped open and she said, "Oh, shit." It had just occurred to her that she was going to have to buy him something.
And she had no idea what to get him.
Tifa had suspected something was up when Yuffie walked into Seventh Heaven at five in the afternoon. She had known it for sure when the ninja-girl had ordered a shotglass and a bottle of 151.
"I have no idea what to get him!" Yuffie wailed after swallowing her third shot of the stuff. "I mean, what are you getting him, Tifa?"
"I hadn't thought about it," Tifa said. "I'll probably bake him a cake, since I know nobody else would ever consider cooking. I know Cloud's probably going to do what he always does for everyone else's birthday."
"Get him a bottle of expensive alcohol."
"Should I do that?"
"Yuffie, did you order a bottle of 151 because you know what it is or because you saw a commercial for it?"
Yuffie didn't say anything for a minute. Finally, she said, "Everyone on television who drank it looked so happy!" Tifa promptly plucked the bottle off of the bar and put it back on the shelf. "I just don't know what to do, Tifa! Vincent doesn't really like anything, does he? He's just… Vincent!"
"Look, Yuffie, I'm sure that he'll love anything you get him. It's the thought that counts, after all."
Yuffie sniffed and said, "Okay."
Tifa smiled and pulled Yuffie into a brief hug. "It's nice that you're worried about it, but honestly, you have a week. I'm sure you'll think of something in time."
"Yeah," Yuffie said, slowly at first but then rising in confidence and volume. "Yeah, I will! Thanks, Tifa! You're the best." She got up off of the stool she had been sitting on and started striding towards the bar's exit, then stopped in her tracks. "Tifa, why does the room look funny?"
"Pretty…" Yuffie sighed before falling flat on her face.
When she finally came to, Yuffie realized that she was lying on Cloud's bed. The soft rays of light streaming through the window blinds indicated that it was morning.
She got up, rubbing at her eyes, and stumbled downstairs. Cloud and Tifa were both already up, eating breakfast, and when she came down the stairs they both looked at her with guilty expressions.
"I'm so sorry," Tifa said.
"What about?" Yuffie asked, still not quite remembering what had happened or how she got here.
"I completely forgot," Tifa explained. "That bottle of 151 that you ordered – it was our emergency Cid Bottle."
Cloud cleared his throat and said, "We keep it in reserve just in case Cid shows up wanting a drink. It's rare, but whenever it happens he always drinks us out of house and home because he keeps a Heal materia on him and continually casts Poisona whenever he feels like he's about to throw up or pass out."
"…and?" Yuffie asked.
"So we spiked that bottle of 151 with sleep powder. One shot of it would be enough to put him to sleep for four or five hours and stem the tide. You had three shots of it, so you've been out for sixteen."
Yuffie stared at them and abruptly realized she had to go to the bathroom very, very badly. She dashed off in the direction of the restroom while Tifa shouted "We really are sorry!" at her back.
All that was going through Yuffie's head was that she had even less time to figure out what Vincent would like.
"What are you getting him?" Yuffie asked Barret the next day.
Barret was wearing a hard hat and safety goggles, and he was busily directing the leveling of a large area of land that lay over an enormous oil deposit. Heavy machinery ground back and forth, digging or cutting down trees or moving piles of earth, clearing the way for the construction that was the next phase of the operation.
"You flew all the way out here to Western Gongaga jus' to ask me what I'm gettin' Valentine?" Barret yelled over the sound of engines. "How'd ya get that one by Reeve?"
"I told him it was a business expense!" Yuffie yelled back.
"I don't know! I figure I'll get him a card or somethin'! Why're you askin' me?"
"I want to get him something nice that's not too fancy or anything but still isn't cheap and shows that I care and I know a lot about him but I have NO IDEA WHAT THAT COULD BE!" Yuffie said in one breath.
Barret looked at her dubiously. "You tried talkin' to Tifa yet?"
"Yeah! She wasn't any help, and on top of that she knocked me out with her spiked drinks!"
Barret had a good, long laugh about that, while Yuffie stomped on his foot over and over in an attempt to get him to stop being mean. He didn't seem to notice, which frustrated her even more. He finally stopped laughing and said, "Look, buyin' birthday presents is easy! Just get him somethin' that you can return, and if he doesn't like it he can take it back and spend the cash on somethin' else! Simple!"
"Barret," Yuffie said, "didn't you do that for my birthday last year? Because that blouse you bought me wasn't really in a color that I liked!"
"I gotta go!" Barret said before she could say anything else. "Man stuff, y'know! Later!"
Shera pursed her lips as she swallowed a sip of tea. Yuffie sat across from the scientist in a large, cushy armchair. They were in Cid's and Shera's home in Rocket Town, and Yuffie was paying them a visit. The living room they were in was not spacious, but it was well-kept and looked nice.
"I suppose you could just do what I do whenever Cid's birthday comes up," Shera finally said.
"Yes?" Yuffie asked, trying not to show her eagerness.
"Well, Cid and I have everything we really need, so whenever his birthday rolls around, I put on my nice lab coat, bring out the handcuffs we keep in the closet, and we pretend that I'm the innocent graduate student and he's the mysterious and older string theorist."
"Oh," Yuffie said. She took a sip of her tea and added, "I see." Then she launched into a discussion about the properties of tea and resolved never to ask Shera for advice about anything ever again.
Officially, Yuffie was supposed to be giving Red XIII a ride to Edge anyway, so when she had her ride stop off in Cosmo Canyon she asked him what he was doing for Vincent's birthday.
"Oh, that's simple," Red XIII replied as he was getting his things in order. He lived in Bugenhagen's old lab, studying the stars and helping with the day-to-day affairs in the Canyon. "Here." He motioned with his tail towards a rolled-up poster of some sort that was leaning against one of the walls in his dwelling. "Unroll it and have a look. It's what I'm giving Vincent."
Yuffie unfurled the poster and saw that it was a magnificently drawn star chart, detailing constellations and orbits, celestial bodies and phenomena, some of which she hadn't even realized existed. "Wow," she finally said. "It's beautiful. Did you draw this?"
"I designed it, yes," Red XIII replied. "I had some help with the actual drawing, as I can't exactly hold a pencil."
"Oh, jeez," Yuffie murmured. "How am I supposed to top this? This is so cool."
"I wouldn't worry about trying to top anything," Red XIII told her. "Each person's gift stands on its own as a reflection of their relationship with the person being given the gifts. That's what Grandfather always told me. I'm not sure if Vincent likes astronomy, but I'm giving him this because I know he'll appreciate the effort and time put into it. He has a unique understanding of those things."
"That's really deep, Red," Yuffie finally said. "Can you help me cheat and tell me what I should get him?"
"No," he replied, baring his teeth in his version of a grin. "Let's go."
Vincent's birthday was the next day, and Yuffie was still clueless as what to buy him. She was sitting in her office again, not even bothering to pretend to do paperwork, when Reeve opened the door and popped his head in. "Yuffie, I could use a little help up in my office."
"Sure," she said. "What's up, Reeve?"
"I've lost my keys," he replied, his face reddening.
Five minutes later, Yuffie and Reeve were searching his office for his keys. It was a much bigger office than Yuffie's, as befitted the president of the WRO. He had plenty of room for his filing cabinets, his desk didn't take up more than a fifth of the room, and people did not have to climb over the chairs in front of his desk in order to sit in them.
"So," Yuffie said as she searched. "What are you getting Vincent for his birthday tomorrow, Reeve?"
"A gun-cleaning kit," Reeve replied. "I know he takes good care of Cerberus, but sometimes you just need to take a gun apart and clean every inch of it. It'll make the process less arduous."
"Ah. So you believe in practical gifts or something like that?"
"Something. I've always thought that I should get people gifts that reflect their interests and careers. When I had to work under old President Shin-Ra, I would always get him a new set of business cards that made some joke about ruling the world or exterminating rebels. He was a detestable guy, but he always liked the cards, so I stayed in his good graces."
"We do what we have to do, I guess," Yuffie acceded. "Found them!" Reeve's keys had been hiding underneath a stack of papers on his desk.
"Thanks," he said, catching them out of the air as she tossed them to him. "If it's a practical gift and has to do with something they already like, they'll probably end up liking the gift, too. At least, that's my philosophy."
"Cool," Yuffie said. "Thanks, Reeve! I'll see you tomorrow at the party, eh?"
"Sounds good," he replied absentmindedly, already focusing on other things. Yuffie headed back towards her own office, some tiny idea of what she should get Vincent finally percolating in her mind.
The next day saw everybody meeting up at Vincent's place to wish him a happy birthday and spend an evening getting drunk. His apartment was medium-sized, with a kitchen, den, bathroom, and a bedroom big enough for two people, so everyone fit inside without too much fuss. It also helped that he kept it Spartan and free of clutter.
Yuffie had gone out and found Vincent his present that morning; it lay on the kitchen table with the rest of the gifts and the cake. The cake was vanilla with chocolate icing and Tifa had stuck a big question mark candle in the cake – after all, Vincent remembered his birthday, but nobody knew exactly how old he was anymore.
"All right, everyone," Tifa called after the initial round of drinks and congratulations had passed. "Gather round." Vincent, who had opted to wear a simple tee-shirt and jeans instead of his usual dark getup, looked like he was actually enjoying himself. He did look like he wanted to sink into a hole and die when everybody started singing happy birthday in off-key and arrhythmic fashions, but he got over that quickly enough and blew out the candle without too much fuss.
"Well," Cid said, already looking like he had had one shot too many, "open yer goddamn gifts, Valentine!"
Vincent surveyed the pile of wrapped things on the table and finally picked out a vaguely bottle-shaped one that had a label on it that said it was from Cloud. He opened it and found a crystal bottle of the highest-quality Wutainese bourbon inside. "Thank you, Cloud," he said. "Cid, I would appreciate it if you refrained from drinking this."
"I'm not that drunk yet!" Cid protested, while Cloud told Vincent that he was very welcome.
Vincent moved on to Barret's gift, which consisted of a card that sang happy birthday when he opened it and a pair of glossy, white dress shoes. "I thought you could use some style in yer life, Valentine," Barret explained. "Also, if you don't like the shoes, you got thirty days to return 'em."
"I do like them," Vincent said. "Thank you, Barret." He put the shoes on on, and looked vaguely ridiculous in them, but he seemed satisfied and proceeded to Cid's and Shera's gift, which was a large paperback book called "The Joy of Tea." Vincent thanked them very gravely for their gift.
Red XIII's gift, the star chart, went over exceedingly well, and Reeve's gun-cleaning kit was similarly successful. By this point, the only gift left on the table was Yuffie's, a small package wrapped in purple and white polkadotted wrapping paper. It had "From Yuffie" scrawled on it in big, messy lettering in permanent marker, and she had also done her best to draw a heart. It looked a bit lopsided and sad, but it was still a heart, dammit.
"I hope you like it," she said as Vincent examined it.
"I'm sure that I will," he replied calmly. He removed the wrapping paper to reveal that it was a black, large-sized tee-shirt. Its only decoration was a picture on the front, which depicted a Restore materia and an arrow pointing down from it towards the wearer's waist area.
Nobody said anything for a moment, opting to stare at the tee-shirt instead.
"So I had no idea what to get you," Yuffie started explaining to Vincent. "And I talked to Tifa about it except she just told me it was the thought that counts, and then she knocked me out with that spiked 151 she keeps around in case Cid goes on a bender –"
"WHAT?" Cid asked.
"– and then I went and saw Barret," Yuffie continued, not even letting Cid get another word in, "and he said to just get you something simple that you could return if you didn't like it, which is apparently what he does for everybody though I guess you knew that, and then I went and talked to Shera and she said that she always does role-playing with Cid for his birthday –"
"SHE TOLD YOU?"
"– and Red XIII said that a gift should have effort put into it and Reeve said it should be practical. So I put all that stuff together in my head, and decided that I would get you a tee-shirt."
Besides Cid spouting oaths and denials, the room was silent, and everyone was used to him doing that, so effectively nobody was speaking. Finally, Cloud said, "…a tee-shirt."
"Yeah!" Yuffie said. "So I put a lot of thought into it, right, and it's the thought that counts, so I covered Tifa. You can return the shirt if you don't like it, so that covers Barret. It's a weird and kinda naughty shirt so there's Shera's ideas covered. The effort I put into it was breaking into your place when you weren't here and looking at all your shirts so I could figure out what size you wore, so I covered Red XIII. And I noticed that you don't actually have that many tee-shirts to wear when you don't feel like wearing your leather and your cape and looking all spooky and mysterious and awesome, so I covered Reeve." She leaned forward a bit and asked, eyes wide, "Do you like it?"
By way of reply, Vincent pulled the shirt on over the one he was already wearing. "It's a wonderful present, Yuffie. Thank you."
Yuffie blew out a long sigh of relief and collapsed into the nearest chair. "Thank Leviathan. You have no idea how much I've been agonizing over what to get you. This was probably the hardest thing I've done in months."
"I appreciate it." Vincent smoothed out the shirt and gave her a small smile.
"I wonder what you'll come up with next year."
Happy Birthday, my dear. I love you.